A bill to defund and dismantle California public charter schools has received an outpouring of opposition from thousands of angry parents, school board members and communities.
Masquerading as “School accountability: financial and performance audits,” this “transparency reform bill,” Assembly Bill 1316, will accomplish the authors’ goal – to defund and destroy public charter schools across the state, along with the thousands of students who attend.
Attorney Lee Rosenberg, Senior Counsel with Young, Minney & Corr, LLP and three of California’s parents and students personally impacted by Assembly Bill 1316 held a Zoom conference call Wednesday to discuss the positive impact of Charter schools, as well as the need for the class action lawsuit.
“People love their charter schools,” Attorney Rosenberg said. He explained the bill is written “to shut down or severely harm public charter schools by pushing options best serving many students.” Rosenberg said 160,000 students left public education this year, while 25,000 newly enrolled in charter schools. “AB 1316 will strangle 1,300 charter schools by defunding them.” He said this bill is backed by the same teachers unions who kept schools locked down and students at home distance learning in front of computers online.
From the lawsuit: “Yet, this school year, in the middle of a global pandemic, as public school classrooms in many counties remain shuttered across the State, the State’s leaders had the audacity to break that promise by enacting and amending Education Code Sections 43502 and 43505 (SB 98 and SB 820) – laws that specifically defund the educations of public school students newly enrolling in public charter schools that specialize in providing at-home/remote or hybrid learning, known as “non-classroom based” charter schools, i.e., the School Plaintiffs in this action.”
Senior director of the Center for Education at the Pacific Research Institute, Lance Izumi just published an op ed in the Orange County Register about this dangerous bill:
While many California school districts have floundered during the COVID-19 pandemic, Democrats in the California Legislature are taking aim again at charter schools, which are among the few remaining school-choice options available for parents dissatisfied with the regular public schools.
AB 1316, authored by Assembly education committee chair Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, and supported by the California Teachers Association, is marching through the Legislature and purports just to increase oversight over charter schools.
A CTA talking-points document on AB 1316 says the bill would, among other things, improve “audit and accounting systems,” close “student attendance loopholes,” restructure “the flawed funding determination process,” and improve “[charter school] authorizer oversight.” These elements may seem innocuous or even helpful, but the reality is much different from the union’s rosy propaganda.
As Sacramento County Board of Education member Paul Keefer has noted, “One of the most egregious acts of education inequity is seen in the fine print of AB 1316.”
During the Zoom conference, three students told their unique stories of attending charter schools and why:
- Tanner is battling cancer and fighting MS. His mother said traditional public school wasn’t a good fit because of his health, but attending a charter allowed him to remain in school despite his ongoing treatments.
- Armando is a recent graduate of a charter high school, which he preferred because for many years his father has worked a swing shift and Armando sometimes went for weeks without seeing his dad. His charter schools allowed him a flexible schedule. Armando also said he’s always worked ahead in school and traditional public school teachers “didn’t have anything for me” when that happened. But his Charter school teachers “always were ready for him” when he worked ahead on his school work.
- Henry is a special needs student with health issues. Traditional public schools punished him with lower grades when he was absent for medical appointments. Charter school “gave him some breathing room.” He’s still in charter school and loves it and his teachers. Henry’s mom said when Henry went to traditional public middle school, they wanted him to be home schooled. But his mom wanted him in a school with other kids. She said at River Springs Charter School, they don’t separate disabled kids from other kids. And she said the classes are not crowded like traditional public schools.
“Public schools are supposed to serve all students, including the disabled, and no matter where they come from,” Rosenberg said. “California has a $75 billion budget surplus. Yet this year, the state decided not to fund thousands of students. They targeted charter schools.”
These charter schools specialize in remote and online learning, Rosenberg said. “In a filing a few weeks ago, the State dug into their position further, claiming that it is okay to defund a child’s education because in their view, the Legislature can choose to defund students if it wants to. They ignore that the Constitution protects students’ fundamental right to an education on equitable terms, no matter which public school in the State they are attending. We are seeing this hostility towards children play out again in AB 1316.”
“We sued the state in a class action lawsuit,” Rosenberg said (lawsuit below). “The court will decide this fall if all public schools will be funded. The state needs to stop picking winners and losers. This will only deepen inequity.”
Izumi also notes, “O’Donnell and the CTA argue for AB 1316 by pointing to the case of a specific charter in San Diego County where the school’s leaders pleaded guilty to fraud charges. Yet, tellingly, cases of fraud in school districts, such as several fraud scandals in the Montebello Unified School District in Los Angeles County, have not spurred legislation aimed at the regular public schools.”
As Paul Keefer noted in an op ed in Capitol Weekly, “The state Legislature has already implemented a moratorium on new non-classroom based public charter schools until January 2022. The Legislature chose to freeze new programs as part of a series of reforms negotiated in 2019 that are contained in AB 1505, AB 1507, and SB 126. As it turns out those bills were the Trojan Horse that now set the stage for the charter school attack contained in AB 1316 that will further limit opportunities for tens of thousands of students throughout the state.”
“Ironically and sadly, while students attending non-classroom-based schools with growing enrollment are being defunded, the State has chosen to fund public schools experiencing declining enrollment for the ‘phantom students’ who actually left their rosters – many of them the same public schools that are struggling to deliver distance learning,” Rosenberg’s lawsuit says. “That is, in the 2020-21 school year, the State will pay public schools for all of the students from the 2019-20 school year who are not actually attending those schools anymore, but it has decided that it will not pay public schools like the School Plaintiffs for all of the students who they are actually serving and willing to serve in the 2020-21 school year. With legislative decisions like these, it indeed begs the question – who is California’s education system intended to serve, the children or the adults?”20-09-24-Petition-re-Funding-Filed
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